[Writer's Choice] South Korea Red Light Districts

Jay Yim, Jan. 11, 2019, 5:47 p.m.


Located in the Wolgok-dong area at Gireum Station, it is also known as Miari Texas or Texas Miari after the American servicemen that helped popularise the area.


Even though prostitution was made illegal in 1961, police action was generally limited to just suppressing the human trafficking and underage prositution. In addtion, the police were often bribed by the brothels.

In January of 2,000, the district appointed a new police chief, Kim Kang Ja, who was Korea's first female police chief. Kang Ja claimed 80 percent of the area's 1,500 prostitutes were underage. She instigated many raids to try and eliminate the underage prostituion. At lease 40 of the estimated 260 brothels were closed down, and Miari was virtually rid of underage prostitution.

Kang Ja's crackdown precipitated a 50 day national anti-prostitution campaign and a change in the law. This law allowed for police to name people who used underage prostitution, tripled the jail sentences and fines for pimps and no longer treated underage prostitutes as criminals.

Following the 2004 anti-prostitution laws, which define prostitution as a form of human trafficking, further police actions occured in Miari.

Cheongnyangni 588

This was a red-light district in Seoul, South Korea near Cheongnyangni station. At its peak in the 1980s it housed 200 brothels and 500 prostitutes, and was the largest in Seoul. Cheongnyangni is often referred to as "Oh Pal Pal", meaning "five eight eight" in Korean, possibly due to a bus which once passed through the area.


The area first became used for prostitution during the 1910-1945 Japanese occupation following the building of Cheongnyangni Station. In the 1950s during the Korean War, the station had many soldiers passing through it and these soldiers were the main customers for the area.

The lifting of the nighttime curfew in 1982 (which had been in place since the end of WWII), increased trade to the area.

In 1988, Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics, and in an attempt to improve the area, windows were fitted to the front of the sex establishments in the style of Amsterdam's De Wallen district. This improvement of the area was backed by the government.

In 2004, the South Korean government passed an anti-prostitution law (Special Law on Sex Trade 2004), prohibiting the buying and selling of sex and shutting down brothels. Although new illegal, and despite police crackdowns, the area continued.

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